WEEKLY REPORT: COUNCIL CLOSES 2020 WITH FINAL VOTES ON TAX REFORMS, WORKER PROTECTION BILLS

In Bobby Henon, Cherelle Parker, Council News, Curtis Jones, Jr., Darrell L. Clarke, Featured, Helen Gym, Isaiah Thomas, Kenyatta Johnson, Maria D. Quiñones-Sánchez, News, W. Wilson Goode by PHL Council

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COUNCIL APPROVES LEGISLATION TO FUND $400 MILLION PLAN FOR AFFORDABLE HOUSING, JOB CREATION, SMALL BUSINESSES AND NEIGHBORHOOD PRESERVATION

Neighborhood Preservation Initiative booklet cover and link to Issuu for viewingCity Council voted to approve a package of bills intended to generate $400 million in bond revenue to fund massive citywide investments in affordable housing, home repair, job creation, and neighborhood preservation.

Council voted to approve a 1 percent Development Impact Tax on residential construction, and legislation that reduces the real estate tax abatement for commercial construction by 10 percent. The development impact tax was approved by a 14-3 vote, and the commercial abatement reduction was approved, 17-0.

To generate broader support for the bills from the development community and Kenney administration, Council also voted to approve legislation that delays by 12 months the implementation of a rolldown in the residential portion of the real estate tax abatement. That bill passed, 11-6.

Revenues from the Development Impact Tax and commercial abatement reduction will be used to help fund the Neighborhood Preservation Initiative, a $400 million program to address disparities magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic, including the need for more affordable housing, repairs to residents’ existing homes, support for first-time homebuyers, neighborhood business corridor revitalization, and the creation of a more inclusive workforce and family-sustaining jobs across the city.

“The COVID-19 pandemic magnified economic and racial disparities that have existed for far too long in Philadelphia,” said Council President Darrell L. Clarke (5th District). “There is literally no time to wait. These needs are urgent. We need to act now to create a more equitable future for every Philadelphian and all our neighborhoods. Everyone must pay their fair share. I’m proud of Council for recognizing these needs – and acting on them.”

The Development Impact tax will yield an estimated $9 million to $11.7 million in revenue per year, according to projections by Council’s budget and technical staff. The 10 percent reduction in the commercial abatement will generate an estimated $83 million in revenues for the city and schools over the next decade. These revenues will help pay the debt service for the $400 million bond.

The bond program is also expected to catalyze a larger burst of economic activity — $2.5 billion-worth – and produce $71 Million in new tax revenues over the first 4 years. It is estimated that it will support over 14,700 jobs with $765 Million in wages.

“We can’t sit by idly and wait for someone to come to our rescue; we must be proactive,” said Council’s Majority Leader, Cherelle L. Parker (9th District), who introduced the legislation on Clarke’s behalf. “This legislation will generate close to a half billion dollars that will impact the lives of our most vulnerable residents who have been hurt most directly by the coronavirus. It will help those in poverty, prevent those living on the margins from falling further behind, and create sustainable jobs and assist small businesses – which need help the most right now.”

The Kenney administration testified last week in support of all three bills, and the legislation now goes to Mayor Kenney for his consideration and signature.

AFTER DEBATE, COUNCIL APPROVES ABATEMENT MEASURE TO CRACK DOWN ON TAX-DELINQUENT CONTRACTORS

On yet another bill focusing on the city’s controversial property tax abatement, legislation offered by Councilmember Bobby Henon (6th District) to prohibit developers and contractors from qualifying for the abatement if they are delinquent on any city taxes and permit requirements was approved by Council, but not before a continuing debate over whether the measure discriminates against immigrant construction workers.

In a previous committee hearing, Councilmember Maria Quiñones Sánchez (7th District) raised those questions, and the bill’s sponsor, Henon, assured Councilmembers that was not the legislation’s intention. Thursday in Council, Quiñones Sánchez said while she has always been against the exploitation of any worker during her years in Council, she sought to ensure that immigrant laborers would still have the opportunity to work for contractors on construction projects across the city. Henon assured that they would.

The legislation was approved by Council by a 13-4 vote.

COUNCIL VOTES TO UPDATE CITY’S BAN THE BOX LAW

As the type and kind of employment continues to change around the city, Council acted  on legislation to update an 8-year-old ordinance that protects job applicants with some form of criminal records history in their backgrounds – the “Ban the Box” law.

Under the leadership of Councilmember Curtis Jones, Jr. (4th District), a champion of criminal justice reform, Council made the following changes by ordinance to the Ban the Box law:

  • Apply the law to current employees (not just job applicants)
  • Clarify that the law applies to third-party employers and independent contractors (such as Uber, Lyft or Doordash)
  • Allow for damages to be awarded directly to the aggrieved party (instead of the city)

MEMBERS VOTE TO EXTEND REQUIREMENT FOR EVICTION DIVERSION PROGRAM

Council voted to amend the Eviction Diversion Program, extending the requirement to use the program’s mediation service before resorting to eviction. The measure, introduced by Councilmember Helen Gym (At Large), was approved, even as a current court order regarding evictions is due to expire at month’s end. Without alternatives like mediation, thousands of renters and their families could be evicted this winter – potentially increasing the spread of COVID.

Since the program began in September, 182 renters and their families have avoided eviction by using mediation to reach an agreement with their landlord, and 220 cases are scheduled for mediation in the coming weeks. The mandate to participate in mediation before filing for eviction currently expires December 31. The amendment would extend the mandate to participate in mediation through June 2021.

COUNCIL PASSES LEGISLATIVE PACKAGE TO PROTECT HOSPITALITY SECTOR JOBS FOR LAID-OFF WORKERS

Council unanimously passed the Black Workers Matter Economic Recovery Package that seeks to ensure over 12,000 hospitality sector workers can return to their jobs as their workplaces reopen, introduced by Councilmembers Gym, Kenyatta Johnson (2nd District) and Isaiah Thomas (At Large). The package would allow those workers to return to jobs where they have earned higher pay and benefits through seniority. It also prevents new contractors from replacing seasonal stadium and food service airport workers, and protects workers’ jobs if a hotel is sold or goes through foreclosure.

Philadelphia’s hospitality industry has been among the hardest hit by the economic impact of COVID, where employment is still down 38 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels. No community has felt the consequences of this downturn more acutely than Black workers, who account for the bulk of Philadelphia’s tourism workforce. The package contains three bills:

  • Councilmember Gym’s bill requires hotels, the airport, and event centers to offer jobs back to previous workers, who lost their jobs because of COVID-19, based on seniority.
  • Councilmember Johnson’s bill amends an existing law to ensure that seasonal workers at the sports complex, and food service workers at the Philadelphia International Airport, are not replaced if a new contractor takes over services at their workplace.
  • Councilmember Thomas’ bill protects workers’ jobs if a hotel is sold or goes through foreclosure.

“Today City Council sent a message that we will not only support the tourism industry – we will protect the jobs of the workers who built it and will rebuild it as the economy reopens,” said Councilmember Gym. “The bill protects our City’s public health by ensuring the industry is staffed by the most experienced workers. For too long, studies have found Black workers are the first to be laid-off and the last to be rehired after an economic downturn. We will not stand for that in our city. Instead, we are building a recovery led by workers, prioritizing the needs of their families and communities.”

SEEN ON SOCIAL MEDIA…

COUNCIL APPROVES LEGISLATION TO BRING TRANSPARENCY, DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION TO CITY CONTRACTS

A package of three bills approved by Council yesterday requires firms contracting with the city to disclose demographics such as race, ethnicity, gender identity, and other pertinent information regarding the staffing of their firm.

Council approved the Walter P. Lomax, Jr., Transparency in Business Act  (Bills No. 200588-A, 200589-A, 200590-A), introduced by Council Majority Leader Cherelle L. Parker, augmenting her focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion this year in Council.

“Have you ever wondered about the demography of the firms that reap significant benefits from doing business with the City?” Parker said. “Residents of Philadelphia have a right to know who is benefitting and building wealth from doing business with their local government. This legislation will bring transparency to what has traditionally been an opaque contracting process. We must be intentional about that. Recently, we have seen local businesses make very public commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion. This legislation will help shine a light on the effectiveness of their goals and objectives.”

Firms that do business with the City will be required to provide information regarding the firm’s prior business with the City in the previous five years, if applicable. The legislation would apply to contractors and subcontractors on both goods and services contracts valued at one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000) or more. The legislation would also require contractors on competitively bid services contracts to disclose the demographics of the entities from which they draw their workers. The information required by the legislation would be publicly housed on the City’s website.

The legislation does not prohibit any firm from competitively bidding on City contracts. It simply requires that they commit to providing certain information in order to secure a contract with the City. It also does not establish demographic “quotas” for staff and firm leadership.

IN OTHER NEWS…

Council Honors Joey Temple, Longtime Community Activist. Joey Temple, a community advocate from North Philadelphia, a longtime voice on local black radio, was such a person. Mr. Temple passed away recently at 68, and Council, in a resolution sponsored by Council President Clarke, showered praise on his memory. In the resolution, Council honored Mr. Temple with his own words, as he said, “I fight for the people suffering through mental health conditions, and I also fight for the young brothers on the corner because a lot of times, people don’t understand the young people on the corner.”

Council Honors Rue Landau, Longtime Head of Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations and Fair Housing Commission.  Councilmember Jones honored Landau with a resolution and a heartfelt floor speech recounting the issues they had worked on during her tenure. Councilmembers Gym, Henon and Quiñones Sánchez added their own tributes as well. Landau is leaving the Commission to become a professor at the Beasley School of Law at Temple University.

Council Notes the Retirement of Former Member and Staffer W. Wilson Goode, Jr. The former Councilmember, who served  for four terms as an At Large member and later as a Council staffer, is retiring from public service. Council President Clarke honored Goode with a resolution Thursday.

Once again, several members shared stories of Goode’s leadership, work-ethic, mentoring of new members, and expertise on community economic development and minority participation.

OTHER SIGHTS AND SOUNDS FROM THE COUNCIL WEEK

Committee on Legislative Oversight, held 12-7-2020

Joint Committee on Public Health and Human Services; Public Safety, held 12-9-2020

Committee on Commerce and Economic Development, held 12-9-2020

Stated Meeting of Philadelphia City Council, held 12-10-2020

PHILADELPHIA FACTS AND FIGURES

The next Stated Meeting of City Council is scheduled to take place on Thursday, January 28, 2020 at 10 am. The Meeting will be held remotely due to the ongoing pandemic, and will air on Xfinity Ch. 64, Fios Ch. 40 and stream at www.PHLCouncil.com/watch

 

 

Featured Photo: A. Ricketts for Visit Philadelphia 

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